December 2011


This is a poem from Daniel Berrigan’s Time Without Number (from An Almanac for the Soul):

They set out in bright approving summer:
flags, gold, imagination attending
down charted roads, the star like a sun of night,
and at earth’s end, the unique King awaiting.

Autumn too was lovely and novel:  weather temperate
and the star mellowing slowly as a moon.
Then winter on them:  the light snuffed out:
hearsay, frontiers, men inimical to dreamers —
and what direction in iron snow? — a hind’s track
diminished in ivory, a white birch stricken to ground
and the sky tolling its grey dispassionate bell
upon age, upon infinite heart’s weariness.

So the great came, great only in need,
to the roof of thatch, the child at knee awaiting.

[To order An Almanac for the Soul contact the Iona Center, P.O. Box 1528, Healdsburg CA 95448; ionacenter@comcast.net; or 707.431.7426]

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That’s the title (with the You in italics, which I can’t get the the heading) of a short piece from Martin Luther I found in Watch for the Light — a book of daily readings for Advent and Christmas that I’m using this year.  And, I guess if you’re looking for dandelions, you’ll find dandelions.  Because it fits with my sermon for tonight (which I posted yesterday).  It fits well enough that I’m considering adding it as a postscript:

The angel said to them, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people; for there is born to you this day a savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  [Luke 2:10]

“… [The angel] does not simply say, Christ is born, but to you he is born.  Neither does he say, I bring glad tidings, but to you I bring glad tidings of great joy.  Furthermore, this joy was not to remain in Christ, but it shall be to all the people.  …Christ must above all things become our own and we become his.  This is what is meant by Isaiah 9:6  “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”  To you is born and given this child.  … The Gospel does not merely teach about the history of Christ.  No, it enables all who believe it to receive it as their own, which is the way the Gospel operates.”

We were asked, at the clergy writing group, to give the opening sentence of a seasonal sermon we would probably never give in our congregations.  Here are my two entries:

It might surprise you to learn that our ideal person of faith is an expectant, unwed twelve year old …

and

Having the magi recognize Jesus’ birth is like having palm reading astrologers give him their seal of approval …

This is my sermon for the Vigil tomorrow night:

My father named me Jacob, after the patriarch — for all the good that does!  What good is a name like that to a shepherd?  People today forget that Jacob himself really was a shepherd.  They refer to their leaders as shepherds.  But they mean it figuratively.

They look at real shepherds with contempt, and go out of their way to avoid contact with us.  They call us thieves behind our backs — and even sometimes to our faces.  But they wear our wool and eat our meat all the same.

Shepherds live hard lives in some ways, exposed to the hot summer sun and the cold winter winds, fighting off wild animals, working throughout the day and night when necessary.  I’m told we also smell.  I wouldn’t know.  But they say we pick up the odor of our charges, and people of breeding turn their noses up when we are near. (more…)

This will be my Christmas Greeting (to come out in early January) for my congregation this year:

The word “incarnation” has been on my mind this past week.

It means something like “in the flesh” or “given flesh” – as in Jesus was born in the flesh on Christmas Day.

But I’ve found myself thinking that we, as Christ’s mystical Body, give flesh to Christ in our own community today.

Our hands are not just our hands:  they are God’s hands.

Our eyes are not just our eyes:  they are God’s eyes.

We act for God today.

We represent God today.

What we do puts flesh on God for the people around us today – just as Jesus puts flesh on God for us as Christians.

And this idea carries over from the season of Christmas (that runs through January 5th – Twelfth Night) into the Epiphany (January 6) and the season following, which is about what Jesus did in the world.

Jesus wasn’t just born.  Jesus acted.  Both are necessary parts of God’s incarnation in this world.

In our baptisms, we are reborn (by the power of the Spirit) in Christ.  And we are called to act, to incarnate Jesus’ presence, in his Name.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.  May we live out the spirit of Christmas in the year ahead.

Reading Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway.  He’s talking about hitching from Arizona to Pennsylvania, and it brings back old memories.

I did a lot of driving, birding, in college, with Frosh.

But I did a lot of hitching (and some picking up) in college too.

I remember two pickups in particular. (more…)